The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Moleskin Sketchnotes - Fill a moleskin - decide what is worth publishing - publish those things - Moleskin Process

Fill a Moleskin. Publish What’s Interesting. Repeat.

I wish it hadn’t taken me a year to find this lovely little moleskin notebook.  I have sketchnoted in a variety of mediums, and found that experimentation valuable, but I feel that I have come across the medium that I want to focus on.  I’ve got to thank master sketchnoter Mike Rohde for suggesting this notebook (if you haven’t yet checked out his awesome new book on sketchnoting, do so now).  It didn’t take long for the moleskin to become my go-to medium for sketchnoting. In fact, all it took was one page for me to be hooked:

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Moleskin Sketchnotes - My New Sketchnote Journal

Note: I have since switched to a different pen (the Pentel EnerGel – also a Rohde suggestion).

To summarize why these notebooks rock:

  • The hard cover makes for a great surface to write on, even if you are just holding the notebook in your hand while you sketch
  • The thick pages prevent bleed from one page to the next so that when you go to take a picture of your notes or scan them in you get a clear picture of just the page you want (no shadows from the next page peeking through)
  • It’s small and sturdy and therefore easy to carry around to conferences or coffee shops (both of which are plentiful in my current city of Portland, Oregon)
  • It’s NOT another screen!  I’ve come to love the feel of putting pen to paper.  I spend plenty of time in the digital world, but for creative pursuits I like to follow this model:The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Create With Analog Refine and Publish With Digital
  • It makes me feel classy and artistic.  This may sound silly but it is true.  And if I get a psychological bump from my notebook, you better believe I’m sticking with it.

With those thoughts in mind, I give you my current work routine:

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Moleskin Sketchnotes - Fill a moleskin - decide what is worth publishing - publish those things - Moleskin Process

Step 1: Fill a Moleskin

I sketchnote for personal reasons – to help me process and remember cool information that I come across in my day-to-day life.  That information usually comes from books, podcasts, or online videos.  By keeping my moleskin on me at all times, I’m always prepared to capture ideas.

If I know that I’ll be sketching for a while, I usually do a bit of warm-up, which lately has involved writing out the alphabet in a font that I want to get better at writing.  I also like to find some objects to sketch (The Noun Project is a great resource for this) Here are a few examples of recent warm-up pages:

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Moleskin Sketchnotes - Handwritten Alphabets

The Graphic Recorder - Doug Neill - Moleskin Sketchnotes - The Noun Project Sketches

The warm-up gets the muscles ready and is a relaxing way to starts things out before the more-demanding task of capturing ideas.  After the warm-up I’m ready to delve into whatever source catches my fancy that day.  And once you get started, it is surprising how fast you can fill a notebook.

Step 2: Decide What Is Worth Publishing

Only AFTER I have filled an entire notebook do I look back and figure out what I want to publish and write about on this website.  Sometimes I will snap a quick photo mid-notebook and share it via my Twitter or Tumblr account, but that is only when I’m really excited about something and feel the need to share it right away.  For everything else I let it sit for while, which means that I am able to return to those sketches with better perspective and a clearer idea of their importance to me.  I’m also able to see more connections between the various topics that I sketchnote.  Making connections between ideas from different sources gives you an awesome jolt of intellectual energy, and it’s one of the things that I live for.

Step 3: Publish Those Things

Now I’m ready to start uploading and writing.  I start by making a list of the sketchnotes I feel like sharing.  Then I decide on a publishing order, and put a check box next to that number.  At that point I’m ready to put in a bit of work each day to get them out of my mind onto this site.  And with each new post I get to check off one of those boxes – a small celebration that helps keep me going.

Step 4: Repeat

While I am publishing sketchnotes from a completed moleskin, I begin to fill the next one.  This helps me maintain a healthy digital/analog balance that I mentioned earlier.  An added benefit is that once I finish publishing everything from one notebook, I usually have another one filled that I can start pulling from.

This work cycle, more so than any other that I have tried before, keeps my momentum moving forward.  I’m excited to always be creating new sketchnotes in my notebook, but I also appreciate the time and space to reflect on past sketchnotes that this blog affords me.  Since I sketchnote for personal reasons, the reflection piece is just as important to me as the initial sketch.  With the initial sketch my goal is simply to get the ideas down on paper.  While writing and reflecting, my goal is to figure out how I want to incorporate those ideas into my own life.  By completing BOTH of those steps I get the most out of this hobby that is consuming more and more of time, which I am nothing but excited about.